Ask Stacy: Is This Company Legit?

Photo (cc) by Sean MacEntee

I often get emails from people asking me about specific companies, most of which I’ve never heard of. The one below, for example, is about a company promising to hook you up with a lease-purchase home, regardless of your credit…

Hello Stacy,

I’m in the market for an apartment as I am relocating to another state. As I was searching, I have come across rent-to-own home ads and wondered whether this is a legitimate business offering. Can you shed some light on that industry or make any recommendations as to where I can see if a company is legit? One such company, called OwnerWiz, seems to keep popping up.

Thank you,
Marthe

To learn a little more about OwnerWiz, I went to their website. Here’s a cut-and-paste…

It only takes a few minutes to register to receive listings for real rent to own homes available in your area. At OwnerWiz, we bring together home buyers and sellers who want to work out a win-win deal without the financing headaches. We give you the tools you need to become a successful home buyer, even if you have less-than-perfect credit. Our goal is to match families with their dream home, and we will not take a penny until you are in a home!

I didn’t do a great deal of research, nor did I invest a lot of time to form an opinion on this company. Here’s what I did, and what you should do, any time you’re wondering if anything that sounds too good to be true is exactly that.

Step 1: Search for complaints

I put the words “OwnerWiz complaints” into a search engine. Here are a few words cut and pasted from several posts from just one complaint site, RipOffReport.com. To read each report in its entirety, click the links below…

  • Ownerwiz is a fraudulent company that only makes money by collecting affiliate payments. They are a FRAUD!”
  • I registered with Owner Wiz in early April 2011. They drafted an enrollment fee from my check card, and promised to assist me with locating a home… Their policy is to draft a monthly fee of $39.95 from the check card that I provided them with. I had to call my bank to cancel the check card and request a new one, to avoid bank fees.”
  • They offer to find homes for people with bad credit, by supplying listings for you to pick a house from and put you with an investor that buys the house you choose for lease purchase. They tell you it is $39.99 per month for the service to get you an investor and set everything up… When you receive the contract, it is a contract to pay them the $39.99 per month for the term of your lease agreement, which is more then $900.00 per year.” (Editor’s note: $39.99 per month is $479.88 per year.) They do not tell you any of this up front, they lie about the charges and money you need and when I confronted them about all this they refused to give me back my money.”

Step 2: Check the BBB

Here’s some info from the Better Business Bureau’s review of Owner Wiz

  • This Business is not BBB accredited
  • On a scale of A+ to F: D

A comment from the BBB review…

This company has been contacted concerning their misuse of BBB Trademark on their website. The company has not responded to our request that they remove BBB Trademark and it remains on their website at this time. Information regarding their misuse of BBB Trademark has been sent to the legal department of the Council of Better Business Bureau for appropriate action.

There’s a lot more there, none of it flattering. Check it out.

Step 3: Give it the “sniff” test

While what you’ve seen thus far is probably enough to steer you away from this particular company, the next one you research might not be that black-and-white. So I did one additional step: I went as far as I could through the sign-up process for OwnerWiz without providing credit card and personal info to see what would happen.

What happened is this: The company tells you to get a credit report through an affiliate site like CreditReport.com or FreeScore360.com – referrals for which OwnerWiz presumably earns a fee.

While I didn’t sign up for a “free” credit score (these sites provide a score in exchange for signing up for credit protection services for monthly fee), that hasn’t ended my relationship with OwnerWiz. Thus far, they’ve sent me an email a day begging for me to get my credit report.

You might reasonably assume that you can get around this requirement by getting a free copy of your credit report from the only source that truly provides one: AnnualCreditReport.com. But that’s not good enough for OwnerWiz. From one of their emails…

If you already have your credit report from another source other than ours, you will STILL need to get your report from the sources we give you.

In other words, despite the fact that OwnerWiz says on it’s site that “won’t take a penny until you are in a home,” they still apparently need to collect an affiliate referral fee before you can even get past step one.

Bottom line? While I can’t say that this company isn’t “legit” I can say that I’d never deal with them. First, because of what I’ve read online. Second, because of their backhanded attempt to earn a referral fee before I can even enroll. And finally, why bother? If you want a lease purchase, simply call a real estate agent or look online: They’re not hard to find.

Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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